I was happy to be on this trip -- I was going to see my folks for Christmas. Always a happy thing, no? Like any trip, I began by pricing the various options. Not surprisingly, BA in J was decently priced ex -- Europe. The trick was NOT to end up on AA once in the States, as that seemed to cause a HUGE uptik in the price of the ticket. I don't know why. But, searching a well known travel website, I found a ticket that worked.
20 December 2007
BA 551 FCO -- LHR
750 Dept 935 Arr (sheduled)
3A (Club Europe)
I was up early and at the airport in Rome about 6 AM. All flights to the UK and USA have a requirement that you show an intenerary BEFORE you check in (or a boarding pass, issued on line). At that hour, the flights to the US have started to get going and check in. I showed the police proof I was to travel, and made the immeadiate left into British Airways Club Europe line. As is usual, not all the counters were open yet. The ground staff had already begun checking people in, but the full shift doesn't arrive in about 615 or so, as to better time workers to the shift needs I suspect.
Club Europe has a single in the Rome Airport. There was only one family in front of me. Very quickly I was tagged all the way to El Paso, with the reminder to change terminals in LHR (from 1 to 4) and to pick up my baggage for re check in Phoenix (PHX), my US entery point.
I moved to passport control and security. I will say, in all my time in FCO, I have always found security to move quite rapidly. I think I was safely in the BA Executive Club Lounge in 15 mins. or less. Not to bad, I didn't think. The BA lounge is a few minutes walk from security, near gate 2 (BTW, all BA flights leave from the Satalite, so you need time to take the airtrain to your gate, if you're ever lounging in Rome). As is typical, the Italian BA ground staff was warm and welcoming. The lady scanned by boarding pass (as is normal) and invited me into the lounge with a smile. I smiled back, and headed straight for the coffee machine.
The BA lounge in Rome I guess is technically an out station lounge, in that there is no seperate FIRST section. Of course the fact that there is only ONE premium cabin in Europe effects that decision as well. As I have noticed before, BA offers a wide variety of teas, coffee, espresso, cappachino, juices etc in the morning. Further, breakfast pastries are offered. I took the coffee, but didn't eat knowing breakfast would be served on board.
As you enter the lounge, immeadiately past the desk, there are tables and a bar with said food. Across from this bar -- perhaps 15 meters -- there is a repeat of all you see before you in another bar. To the right of that bar is the old smoking room. Also, to the right as you enter, is the TV. I've always see it on either BBC or Fox Biz News.
After a pleasant wait in the BA lounge, it was time to start walking toward the gate. I like to be at the gate 30 min early, even though rarely does boarding start that early. To get to the air train, you must walk a good 10 min or so. As I was walking, most of the shops were still closed. For that matter, so was my wallet so I wasn't to concerned. Quickly enough I was on the train, headed off for my waiting flight.
I arrived just as the "pre boarding" announcements were being made. Unusually (at least in my experience), Club Europe was given priority boarding. The J cabin was perhaps 30% full, and I'd guess about 75% in Y. We boarded via L1. The crew was welcoming and assisted people in getting settled quickly. By 740, we were ready to go. We managed to push off about 5 min early, and started the long taxi to the runway. We were up quickly (love that 757 takeoff), and the First Officer (who the Captain said "would be doing the flying today") quickly turned us to the west and north to go over Sardinia, then France over the Alps, across the channel for an early landing in Heathrow. Scheduled air time -- 2 hours. Early in to LHR? YEAH RIGHT (I thought to myself).
Well, let me turn to the flight itself. The first 20 min or so were about the bumpiest I've ever had leaving Italy. Unusually, there was a call to halt HOT drink service (to avoid burns) but the rest of the service continued. I suppose while this was going on, the J b'fasts were being baked in the oven. About 30 min or so into the flight, the cabin crew began to serve the J cabin. This was somewhat after the Y cabin began (perhaps they didn't get a hot meal in Eurotraveler?), by about 5 or 10 min. I only noticed because one of the cabin crew came to assist the CSD in giving meals to PAX. Obviously, with 2 people serving, the meals came very quickly.
The breakfast was the "standard" full English breakfast. Unlike Club World, no options. But I can't complain, the food was very tasty. Scrambled eggs, bacon (rather than ham), sausage and fried potatoes were served together in a crockery dish. The food was not only etiable, but full of flavor. Unlike one so often sees, the eggs and sausage were BOTH hot AND moist. This always surprises me re heated eggs are good. The flight leveled out, turbulance stopped, and coffee was offered (YEAH). Also with the meal, was a choice of breads, strawberry jam and butter (YUM). For what it is worth, no bacon rolls to be seen.
Soon enought we arrived over England. And (no surprise) were put in a holding pattern for LHR, of about 10 min time. This would have landed us and at stand on time, but.......This is LHR. Some "medical emergency" (as announced by the Cpt) in T3 prevented us from parking at T1 (no, I dont' know why. Something to do with emergency crew inside T3 he said.....I told you I don't know why it impacted us, so don't ask ) Anyway, we finally got a jetway (rather than a stand which is always nice). And I proceeded to transfer to T4. I will say, this is the first time I transfered. Before, when I flew into LGW (to go to IAH) or the later flights to FCO (from the states) I always stayed in T4, w/o having to transfer. Anyway......took the bus to T1. It was a long bus ride, but nothing of note to report. I'd only add that it is a long walk to the bus, and if you don't have fast track, you'll need 60 min easy.
So, but about 1015 I was in the T4 gate 10 Lounge, waiting for my flight to PHX. I know many people prefer the gate 1 lounge, but since I wasn't going to eat (Club World has good food), I just decided to stay close to the gate. Again, I presented my boarding pass, and was quickly admitted to the lounge (Terraces, I'm still a silver card holder....will go Gold in March). When I arrived, the breakfast pastry and cereal was still available, as was fruit, coffee, and assorted drinks. It was to early for wine, so I opted for water (need to hydrate up before flying).
Soon enough, it was time to go to the gate.
1250 1630 (scheduled)
Club World 62A (upper deck, RT emergency window seat)
When flying Club World, I prefer to sit in the upper deck. I find it quiter, and the service to be quite good. I was surprised at the youth of one of the cabin crew. He didn't look like he was old enough to serve alcohol (21 to sell/serve in IL for example). OK, I'm only 34....I"M NOT THAT OLD (yet). LOL. Anyway, kits and menus were passed out. As always, the service was quite good. We arrived on time.
For the starter, I had the salmon. May I say, as always, was quite well done. I could happily make this starter my main meal if they had a bigger portion. The new herb stuff they served is better also. Salad was standard.
I wasn't wild about any of the main choices, but finally selected the beef filet and blue cheese gnocchi. The filet was surprisingly good and moist. I (like many others) am always hesitant to order steak on a plane (due to oven re heats). This ain't TWA ambassador class where they cook it in front of you. But, as I said, the steak was good. The Gnocchi was there. If blue cheese was present, I couldn't taste it. It was almost more like a brie.
I don't remember what red I had, other than I wasn't impressed. I should have stuck to champagne (of which I'm not a big fan). I have yet to like either merlot or shyraz on BA. I don't know why, but the CE Bourdoux tends to be better (more about that later).
The desert was cheesecake with carmel. Quite good, and an improvement over the last time I had the same dish.
I watched HAIRSPRAY, read, and dozed for the rest of the flight. It was smooth and daylight (of course) the whole time.
For the second meal, I opted away from Crayfish and mustard sandwiches and for the Articoke salad instead. I have had it before, and quite like it. I only wish they use less olive oil and more balsamic (but to each his own). The flight arrived and we proceeded to customs and immigration.
This was my first time flying into PHX on an international flight. I will say the airport seemed quite small for the 747, but as most flights are 737/A320, it is quite big enough. The lines moved rapidly. There is a sign that says any liquor over 1 liter (qt) must be destroyed by AZ law. I found this odd, as usually importation falls under federal law. But there it is. It was moot, as I didn't take any booze anyway. Oddly, the person to whom you hand your customs form too was plainclothes. By habit, I was walking straight to the uniformed customs officer. Until the plainclothes agent (with badge around neck) spoke to me, I had assumed he was another pax.
In Phx, when you leave customs, you're deposited in the NON sterile area. However, the bag drop for US airways is immeadiatly on the left. I left by bag, was given clear and easy directions to the terminal upstairs for the connecting flight. I arrived, went to fast track security thanks to BA Silver card, adn went to th B concourse.
745 900 pm
Canadair 900 (operated by Mesa)
I arrived with a couple hours to spare. I proceeded to the BA lounge, hoping they'd let me stay there as I was connecting from a BA flight (but connecting to *A flight). While this is an Exec Club and FIRST lounge, and not an arrivals, the lounge agent let me in. In fairness, she did consult the manual and call a supervisor to ask, but as it wasn't covered, she decided it was her discretion to let me in (YEAH, THANK YOU, I LOVE BA!). She only asked that I leave witht he BA flight annoucement, which was completely reasonable. I was lucky as my flight was the same time as the BA flight anyway.
What can be said of a one hour RJ? Not much.......so I won't...........the flight was 100% full. I did notice some employees still wearing AmericaWest vests/sweaters (I only knew because the AmWest logo was sewn on). The service on this 1 hr flight was provided by 2 cabin crew. Nothing special, nothing bad. But they had only 50 min airtime that was usefull, so what do you want? The flight wasn't bumpy, and we set down right on time. Worked for me.
1208 -- 129 pm (scheduled)
2F First class (6/8 seats filled)
I arrived at El Paso about 1015 or so for the flight to PHX. I checked in, not problems in that. They tagged my bag "PRIORITY" with the *A tag. They mentioned the 3rd bag was not a problem because I was in first. Glanced at my boarding pass, looked at the boarding time (1148) and went to a coffee bar to sit with friends and family as the couldn't come into the pax area.
As I have learned, I went up about 45 min before the flight, to allow time for security. In this respect, El Paso is quite good. You take an escalator up to the security area, and then proceed to the gates. I went to my gate, and found the boarding process had begun. Fine with me, less standing around.
Now, this flight had its own drama. There was a discussion with the gate agent and a pax ref the allowed carry on bags. The person had 3, but one of which was a medical bag (equiment) and so claimed it to be exempt, based on what she was told be US when she made the reservation. Just out of curiosity, is that true? At any rate, she was allowed to board with all 3 pieces.
The door was closed and we began the usual announcements. Only two comments on them, as it is something I've not seen before. The FA doing the announcements was in the rear of the Y cabin (as opposed to using the PA at the front of the plane). Also it was the first time that I heard "Captain is in command, assisted by First Officer." I guess she didn't have the sheet of paper listing the names?
As of course the flight was SHORT, there was nothing other than drink and peanuts. I didn't think the service bad. While the cup was plastic, I liked that it wasn't a small cup. It was a good 12 oz cup. Which was nice to mix for the Rum and coke I had.
Again, what is there to say on a flight this short? We arrived in PHX, and since my baggage was checked through, didn't worry about that any more. In PHX, the BA lounge doesn't open till 330PM. I looked for an AA Club, but PHX is without one, so I wandered the terminal until 330.
Scheduled dep 2015
Scheduled arr 1400
At 330, made my way to the BA lounge, and realized that my BA boarding pass had an error. My seat wan't listed as 62A, the seat I had reserved, but 3K. COOL!
Spent the next several hours in the BA FIRST lounge waiting for boarding. The First section is quite small, as is only for OW Emerald, Gold ExClub, and First and only one flight per day. Having been in both the Club section and First section in PHX, I can tell you there isn't much difference. Once the lounge was opended up, the staff did a boarding pass check. As mine had been printed by US, they re printed it for me (I don't know why, I am guessing for computer recognition? Coding?)
Well, got around to boarding time, saw the crew getting onto the plane, and figured that is a good sign. But, then announcement was made -- boarding was to be delayed. The ground staff told us in the Fasttrack like that they were thinking about 20/30 min, rest in the lounge, and they'd make a boarding annoucement there.
So we went back, 30 min went by.........and 45 min went by.........then an hour........We were starting to wonder at that point. About an hour after we were supposed to have departed, they announced the problem was mechanical. Oh NO, I thought. Were are they going to get 747 parts in PHX? Well, about that time, the Captain and CSD both came into the First lounge (I assume they later went to the Club lounge also), and explained that one part in an engine needed to be replaced, and that US was forwarding the part to BA (so something in common obviously). No, I don't know what the part was.
Anyhoo, the captain felt confident that the part would work, and about another 30 or 45 min to put the part in, and we'd be underway. Worse case, BA would fly a part in the next day and 2 services would operate to LHR. Gillian (the CSD) stayed behind after the Captain's announcment and Q/A period to assure pax that everything would be fine. And about 2 hrs after our departure time, we started to board.
I was fastracked onto the plane, along with Club and OW elites. We boarded at 2L. The FA at the door (who was smiling at pax despite the delay, kudos to him, I don't know his name, but I did notice the good humor of the crew through out service, esp a late one). He welcomed me aboard, handed my boarding pass to another FA who escorted me to my seat, 3K. The legroom -- as people know from photos -- is quite nice.... and the seats are very private.
Once seated, the FA offered to bring me a drink (I took champange) and brought nuts to snack on. The other FA (there were 2 for our full F cabin) brought an amienity kit and sleep suite. By the time I came back from the lav, changed into sleep suit, the drink was waiting for me.
Well, at long last, it was time for push off. That far from the engines, I was amazed how quite they were! It was great. Shortly after take off, we were given menus and wine lists. I opted for the Brie bisque, followed by guinea fowl sauteed in sake. Both were amazing! It was sad I was so tired that I couldn't appreciate the food more. I skipped desert and went to sleep.
The turn down service is first is great. And I have to say, the seat in bed mode is quite comfortable. However, not hugely wider than club, but every little bit helps. The blanket (rather than duvet) is a nice touch. I dozed until breakfast. Breakfast, as far as I could tell, was the same as I've had in Club on different china.
Despite our (very) late departure, we made the trip in 8.5 hrs, do to strong winds (something like 200 mph according to the captain). We landed at LHR, and made our way to security. I was directed to T1 for the flight to Rome. When I finished security, went right to the BA counter for rebooking. The agent looked at both boarding passes (ex PHX and to FCO). I landed in LHR about the time the FCO flight was to leave (about 2 pm ish).
He gave me the choice between an AZ flight leaving about 1630 (with a good chance that luggage would not arrive) or the BA 558, leaving at 1815. I choose the later, not only to have my luggage with me, but I like BA service. I went to the T1 club while waiting.
It was about the busiest time of day -- the Club was packed from about 1600 till I left, about 1745. The service was attentive in th club, nothing ever laying around. Glasses, plates, etc never left out and never a shortage at the bar. I think that deserves mention. The staff was never lazy nor inattentive to pax needs. GOOD ON THEM!
Sheduled 1815 2145
actual 1850 2210
3A, Club Europe
Well, it came time to go board BA 558. Turned out it was delayed as well, out of HEL do to winds in Finland. It arrived about 30 min late, and we boarded 30 min lateish.
I had the ravioli, which I strongly recommend. As usual, BA had a great CE flight crew. To be honest, I find them sometimes superior to the long haul crew, and almost always better than domestic F in the states for food.
For once, baggage was quick in FCO, allowing me to catch the last train to Termini and a cab home.
Thanks for reading!
If there are questions, I will of course try to answer.
We were soon in the sky on the way to FCO. The